Skip to content

C*!T – NSFW (does not contain nuts)

June 26, 2015

It appears from myriad social media posts appearing in my news feed that one of the most popular signs from the Anti-Austerity Cuts March on Saturday 20th June in central London is this one:

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create.

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create – because sexism is okay if it is in a good cause.

{deep sigh}

Every time I see an insult against the worst of the worst, be it David CaMoron, George Osborne (for whom no word could possibly be a suitably bad descriptor), Ian Dunkedin-Shit, Ziegheil Gove, Jeremy Hunt (not rhyming slang), Maria Miller (or any other Minister for Equality appointed in the previous Cabinet), the terrorist/s of the moment, the entire [insert name of country here] government, or any individual or group who have committed acts of atrocities or slightly pissed someone off, in the vast majority of cases cunt is the word that is chosen to emphasise the anger/distaste/whatever of the object of the insult.  Cunt is plastered across social media or across mass media or in public demonstration as the worst possible descriptor, the most shocking and provocative insult to use.

Whenever I have objected, the most common argument I come across is this one (I am cutting and pasting the exact quote from the latest in a long line of people to argue with me), “so either you are for the censorship of words that are used as swear words or you actually see that no deliberate slur to women’s sexual parts was intended or that it was implied that women are solely to blame for the ideology of the Tories (although some obviously are). If you don’t like the word cunt being used as a swear word then I can understand that you simply don’t like it, but to try to turn it into something other than was intended is disingenuous

{another, deeper sigh}

Cunt is a gendered word*.  Whether the intent behind the use of the word is gendered or not, that is irrelevant.  Once it is used on social media it is out there.  To presume that the intent behind the words is exactly the same as how you, as an individual, perceive it and that everyone perceives it that way is disingenuous at the very least.  I will ignore the fact the cut-and-paste quote totally straw-manned my argument by bringing up censorship and reference to implications regarding female responsibility.  The point made is reductive and ignores the context of the sign and word.  In this case, the argument came from a white middle-aged male, but it not a point exclusively argued by men.  Women can be a part of maintaining patriarchal hegemony too.  It is mostly men who argue it with me though.

If google says it, it must be true!

If google says it, it must be true!

When you ask google for a definition of cunt, this is what you get, in order and without separation because both meanings can and will be applied any time the term is used.

Laurie Penny, a woman I admire, has written about reclaiming the word and using it to empower ourselves but as long as we live in a world where the power lies with patriarchy using the word as the worst insult you can think of on social media (which, don’t forget, crosses international boundaries and has a far bigger impact that you may realise**), where you cannot possibly have full understanding of every single person who will read and use the term, it will continue to perpetuate the idea that the female genitalia is dirty, wrong, to be belittled and through this, female sexuality and body image is disempowered and made dirty.

We live in a society where adverts for sanitary towels and tampons cannot use the colour red to represent menstruation for fucks sake!  Where such products are taxed as ‘luxury items’.  Where the idea of moon cups or recycled period cloths are somehow dirty, disgusting and only for hippies who live on the fringes of society.  Where the mention of periods or female body parts is either instantly sexualised or instantly disgusting.

I do not object to the use of the word ‘cunt’.  I think it is a beautiful word; guttural, easy to spit out with venom or humour, short, to the point and describes the centre of the female (cisgender/post-transition transgender for some) body.  It describes a varied, strong, elastic fount of human birth and growth, not that you’d know it from mainstream raunch and porn culture and the rise in vaginaplasties for cosmetic rather than health reasons; the designer vagina.

See how varied they are in shape simply from the external view – you won’t get taught this in school sex ed (probably, I’m old, it’s been a while):

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

I object to the use of cunt as the most offensive, shocking and vulgar insult that can be thought of, and most definitely object to the fallacious and disingenuous argument that because it wasn’t meant as a gendered insult, it shouldn’t be taken as one.  It’s a gendered word, therefore the insult is inherently gendered whether you meant it that way or not.  It may be losing its strength over time, and many now perceive it on the same level as ‘dick’, ‘arse’ or ‘shit’, but if this is really true, why is it the word that is used the most in insults when the invective is intended to be most forceful?  Why is it not ‘arse’ or ‘shit’ that is chosen instead, neither being gendered?

There is a history to the use of the word that ties into the inherent dominance of masculine culture – to call a man a cunt is to feminise him and denigrate him as a result.  It is the ultimate in patriarchal verbal oppression, both of women as an amorphous whole and the man as an individual.  It says that to be feminine is to be lesser, ineffectual and wrong.

I expect someone to counter with a history of the origin of the word ‘cunt’ at some point, but I am talking about the context in which we are currently living.  Cunt has a fine, rich history in which it has not always been such a gross insult, and there are many different root sources of the word.  However, that is not the case for the use of the word at this current time and in the context I am referring to.

When used in the context of a group of friends who know each other well and know how such a use is intended, I don’t object to the use.  Context is what I am talking about and I do bang on about it quite a lot.  I am talking about social media, or mass protest, or any context in which you cannot know how it will be perceived whatever the intent of the use may be.  I am so tired of arguing this point over and over, but I will keep doing so.  As long as patriarchy exists, as long as it hurts people by oppressing them, I will keep doing so.  I really, really wish I didn’t have to.

As for the protest; well I think this banner said more and said it far better:

If this doesn't tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

If this doesn’t tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

*http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cunt
*http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cunt
*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cunt
*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cunt
*https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Cunt

**http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/7059/why-is-cnt-so-much-more-derogatory-in-the-us-than-the-uk

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Whilst I acknowledge that the weighting attached to the word cunt is certainly disproportionate as opposed to the male gender equivalents (and the debate indeed could rest there) I think a degree of circumspection does need to be given from an etymological standpoint. Much of the rationale of the ‘vulgar’ words comes in fact from their function, i.e. that which is considered either dirty or taboo, hence the reason why anything to do with defecation or its associated parts has been part of vernacular and humour for centuries. Likewise the act of procreation if seen as something dirty or daring acquires the same set of vernacular power. With the Victorians came all the taboos and that is where that which was associated with sex became much more shocking than simple pissing and crapping.

    There are two purposes in effect to specific ‘spat out’ swear words rather than when used as adjectives, which is purely then an intensifier, the first is the expulsion of the emotion verbally and the second is to cause shock and/or offence. The more shocking the perception of the word the more careful one is to say or to avoid saying it. The male genitalia is also often used in the vernacular, as a noun relating to people he is a cock/prick/dick(head)/penis/bellend/tool. Or it can be used as disdain particularly in the case of bollocks/balls but also cock. Words like, shit, bugger, bollocks, bastard, bitch, fuck, cock, arse and indeed cunt are very specific in the pronunciation nuance, a strong air-expelling stress on the first syllable or opening sound of the word (usually consonant). Things are often changed for emphasis too such as the fact that the northern pronunciation of the word bastard is often used by people in the South by virtue of it seeming to have more emphatic clipped sound.

    I don’t deny that as I say at the start the weighting of the word has its roots in patriarchy but the use of it as a swear word is less gender- and more subject-specific. Where I disagree with you is the idea that using the word cunt to a man is designed to feminise and denigrate him. Here I think you overplay the general usage of the word because, in my opinion and I believe in my experience of having heard, used, seen the word, it is used for its emphasis and weight and that alone. The transition through the Victorian era etc. is what has led it to be the most taboo word and thus to have its current power as a sweary nuclear button, it is in essence because it is the most taboo word that its usage has currency and I have no doubt that over the period of time that it takes to be reabsorbed so something else will take its place. Formerly, in my lifetime words relating to homosexuality were widely used derogatorily and whilst this remains amongst certain bigoted circles it is far less prevalent, racial abuse remains fairly rife and is very often more shocking and damaging than what might be seen as the more ordinary word cunt or others.

    There is something to be said for reclamation of the word in so far as there are many examples of it seeming to work with other once taboo words, the urban black community often use the word nigger, even if they sometimes spell it with an ‘a’! The Pakistani community in the UK often refer to themselves as ‘pakis’ something which would have seemed unthinkable in the 1960s-80s. The Irish have largely absorbed ‘micks’ which tended to be used more derogatorily than ‘paddys.’ I have heard disabled people refer to themselves as ‘spackers’ and those with mental health conditions refer to themselves as ‘crazies’ and this does rob the words of their ability to shock, it is not shocking if used in everyday parlance by them that you would wish to shock. The way, from a linguistic point of view to deny the word its place on its own is not to keep seeing it in a place of its own, the demystification and normalisation process does take time especially for something entrenched but I think you will have more success in that endeavour than in telling people not to use the word for therein lies its power.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: